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Youth Panel on Climate Change meets face-to-face in Whitehorse

The 13 panelists met on April 24 and 25
Azreil Allen, Abeer Ahmad and Min Stad (from left to right) brainstorm climate solutions in a rural communities focus group at the Yukon Youth Panel on Climate Change’s first face-to-face meeting on April 24 and 25. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Last weekend, the Yukon Youth Panel on Climate Change met and prepared to advise the Yukon government on environmental action.

The 13 panelists met at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on April 24 and 25 to participate in workshops, hear from speakers and develop their research and engagement plans.

“They’re so awesome, I’m so excited to be in this role and act as a resource for them in this process,” said Emily Ross, climate panel coordinator. “It’s such an amazing diversity of experiences and backgrounds, and so much passion for the work that’s getting done around climate.”

The youth panel was formed earlier this year. Their mandate is to review the Yukon government’s 10-year climate strategy.

The panel has met several times over Zoom video conference, but this weekend was the first face-to-face meeting. Representatives from Dawson City, Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Mayo travelled to Whitehorse for the summit.

Several speakers presented to the panelists, with topics including decolonizing climate activism, conducting research and then translating that research into governmental policy.

“There was a wide range of conversations, and good talks happening,” Ross said, noting that each panelist entered the weekend with diverse interests and skillsets.

“We’ve got community leaders, we’ve got microplastics experts, one of the youth was one of the founders of the Fridays for Future strikes in Whitehorse … they’re really coming together and learning from one another, and also getting to share their own experiences.”

Youth Panel Co-Chair Bruce Porter, 15, said the team began digging into Our Clean Future last weekend. He hopes the panel will lend a fresh viewpoint.

“A lot of youth have a different perspective, maybe less concerned about the money and more concerned about the environment,” Porter said.

“We’re going to be trying to pick it apart, and see where there might be gaps … I think after (Sunday) we’ve got a bit of a plan for where to go in the next few months.”

The panelists split themselves into working groups focused on one of four topics: People in the Communities; Infrastructure and Innovation; Policy and Government; and Wildlife and the Environment.

Porter is working in the Infrastructure and Innovation group.

“I was really interested in transportation because it’s Yukon’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and it ties right in with energy production,” Porter said.

“If we want to have more electric vehicles, we want to make sure that it’s actually coming from green energy, and not just from the LNG plant,” he added. The Yukon government has set a goal of 4,800 electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

Azreil Allen, 20, and Min Stad, 17, who hail from Haines Junction and near Carcross respectively, are working on People in Communities with Abeer Ahmad, 21.

“In Haines Junction - I’ve spent my whole life there - I’m seeing all the different changes. You don’t see the fish coming back, and there’s bison overriding a lot of my traditional territory … seeing all the changes pushed me to be a part of this project,” Allen said.

Stad similarly said that the changes in her small community near Carcross, like warm spells in the middle of winter, inspired her to take part.

Ahmad hails from Whitehorse with an interest in the impact of climate change on racialized and low-income people.

“I don’t see a lot of racialized people being involved in talks about climate change. That was what drew me to People in Communities – to recommend ideas to address climate change in the Yukon that are inclusive of immigrant communities, racialized communities and low-income people,” Ahmad said.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at